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UCL Institute of Ophthalmology

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Postgraduate research (MPhil/PhD/MDRes)

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is a vibrant and stimulating learning environment in which to carry out postgraduate research.

Ophthalmology researcher in the lab

Postgraduate students are supervised by internationally renowned experts in their field with access to state-of-the-art laboratories. In addition, our close contacts with clinicians in Moorfields Eye Hospital allows for rapid translation of basic research to address clinically relevant eye diseases and disorders.

Postgraduate students at the Institute are fully integrated into university life at UCL and will benefit, academically and personally, from the services and facilities of the university’s Graduate School, plus accessing social and sporting facilities through the UCL Union.

3-year PhD studentships available

Application deadline: Friday 26th June 2020
 
We are pleased to offer four PhD studentships at the leading eye research centre the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. These posts are funded for 3 years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and include UK/EU UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual stipend starting at £20,000 (including London Allowance).

image of an eye scan

image of an eye scan

image of an eye scan
1. PhD Title: Investigation of Retinal Vascular Structure and Function

Duration of Studentship: 3 years, available to start from 1 October 2020

PhD Title: Investigation of Retinal Vascular Structure and Function

Supervisors: Dr Adam Dubis and Professor John Greenwood

We are offering a fulltime, 3 year PhD studentship to develop hardware and software technologies around measuring retinal blood flow using a custom adaptive optics scanning ophthalmoscope. 

Currently, diabetic retinopathy is determined by the presence of visible microvascular changes on colour photographs or ophthalmic exam. Significant vessel wall weakening occurs before changes occur and yet these early changes are not included in assessing severity of diabetic retinopathy. The question is why do we need to identify such early changes in vivo? This is because there is sufficient evidence to suggest visual function loss occurs before the onset of visible diabetic retinopathy. As retina is a neurovascular bundle, targeting new therapies on very early retinal vascular changes may prevent functional loses at a very early stage. Therefore, there is an unmet need to detect very early and late changes. In diabetic retinopathy, the overarching aim of this project is to detect early changes in diabetic retinopathy non-invasively. 

This project will use an assortment of retinal imaging techniques to measure the density of the blood vessels, local retinal thickness, and make measurements about how the blood moves through the vessels. This project will focus on watching how blood flows down the vascular tree from the large vessels as they enter the eye, to the smallest capillaries. We will look at how the vessels respond to the pulse rate, making measurements of how they expand and contract. The project will measure how fast the blood moved through the vessel in relation to cardiac cycle. These measurements will be made while the eye is ‘at rest’ and during stimulated conditions.

This project will develop a number of tools for understanding vascular blood flow using a number of retinal imaging tools. First, we will develop tools for analysing vascular structure. The majority of the project will utilise a custom cellular imaging camera. Through this project, several methods to experimentally drive retinal blood flow will be developed, validated and used in a small clinical trial. Next the project will utilise modern data science tools to analyse the blood flow and reduce the very complex data into easily understandable terms.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in an associated subject such as biomedical engineering, neuroscience or life science with a computation background. A Master’s degree or previous lab-based research experience is desirable.

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 
• Continue development to automated data analysis including image registration, object detection and tracking.
• Modify complex testing equipment to perform specific task and be able to generalise across systems
• Be able, with a team, to see clinical patients and collect usable patient images and data
• Work in collaboration with other researchers 
• Prepare progress reports 
• Prepare presentations 
• Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
• Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed journals 
• Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies 

Person Specification 
• A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering or Physiology 
• Demonstrable interest in working with human subjects and the translational medicine field
• Experience with statistical methods and software packages 
• Experience of signal processing, device control and image processing
• Excellent methodological skills, particularly in project planning 
• High proficiency in written and spoken English is required 
• Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Adam Dubis (a.dubis@ucl.ac.uk).

Click below to apply
Apply Now

Applicants should submit an application using the online form on the IoO Postgraduate Research Study Website. You will be required to submit a CV, a covering letter outlining motivation, interest, and suitability for this project, and contact details for two academic referees.

Enquiries relating to the application process should be sent to Kristina Labanauskaite, Research Degrees Administrator (ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk).

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start 1st October 2020, but there is a possibility that the start date may be delayed.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded for 3 years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and includes UK/EU UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £20,000.

Eligibility

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and EU nationals if they have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately before the PhD start date. 

Application deadline: Friday 26th June 2020

Proposed interview date: Week beginning 6 July 2020 

2. PhD Title: Pathobiology of early diabetic retinopathy in humans

Duration of Studentship: 3 years

PhD Title: Pathobiology of early diabetic retinopathy in humans

Supervisor: Professor Marcus Fruttiger and Professor Adnan Tufail

A full-time 3-year PhD studentship is available to study the pathobiology of early diabetic retinopathy in humans. 

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complication of long-term diabetes and can lead to vision loss. It is one of the most common causes of blindness in high income countries. Yet despite decades of research, the mechanisms that lead to DR in humans are poorly understood and there are no good treatments available. In this project, we aim to apply modern analysis methods (in situ hybridization, gene profiling and mass spectrometry imaging) to human postmortem tissue, which we have already collected and phenotyped, to investigate molecular mechanisms that may contribute to DR. 

Applications of self-driven candidates with a desire to develop a career in bioscience are welcomed. The project is a collaboration between Prof Marcus Fruttiger (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology) and Prof Adnan Tufail (Moorfields Eye Hospital).  

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 
·    Develop an expertise in diabetes, diabetic complications and disease mechanisms in general
·    Carry out histopathological research using immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridisation, gene expression profiling and mass spectrometry imaging 
·    Actively and continuously read the scientific literature (within and peripheral to the main project focus) 
·    Work in collaboration with other researchers 
·    Prepare progress reports and presentations 
·    Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
·    Prepare manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journals
·    Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies

Person Specification 
·    A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or an MSc in a biomedical field, preferably relating to disease mechanisms
·    Demonstrable interest in scientific research, neurobiology, vascular biology and human disease mechanisms
·    Excellent methodological skills, particularly in project planning
·    High proficiency in written and spoken English is required
·    Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team 

Informal enquiries should be made to Prof Marcus Fruttiger (m.fruttiger@ucl.ac.uk)

Click below to apply
Apply Now

Applicants should submit an application using the online form on the IoO Postgraduate Research Study Website. You will be required to submit a CV, a covering letter outlining motivation, interest, and suitability for this project, and contact details for two academic referees.

Enquiries relating to the application process should be sent to Kristina Labanauskaite, Research Degrees Administrator (ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk). 

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start 1st October 2020, but there is a possibility that the start date may be delayed.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded for 3 years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and includes UK/EU UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £20,000 (including London Allowance).

Eligibility

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and EU nationals if they have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately before the PhD start date. 

Application deadline: Friday 26th June 2020

Proposed interview date: week beginning Monday 6 July 2020 

3. PhD Title: Generating Zebrafish Models To Study The Pathogenesis Of Retinal Degenerative Disease

Duration of Studentship: 3 years

PhD Title: Generating Zebrafish Models To Study The Pathogenesis Of Retinal Degenerative Disease

Supervisors: Dr Ryan MacDonald and Dr Mariya Moosajee

We offer a full-time 3 year PhD studentship to study the pathogenesis of retinal degenerative disease using novel zebrafish models and advanced imaging techniques. 

Retinal degenerative disorders are diseases where the retina breaks down resulting in blindness. In the UK these diseases, like age related macular degeneration, currently affect approximately 600,000 people at an estimated to cost the NHS of £1.6 billion per year. The goal of this PhD project is to generate novel zebrafish models of retina degeneration to study neuronal cell loss and dysfunction in the context of specific disease-associated mutations. We have identified the genes Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) as being important for the healthy development of the retina, which are also associated with several human eye diseases. We will use CRISPR-Cas9 based genome modification to knock-out and generate human patient specific mutants in MMP genes to determine their role in retina development and degeneration. Using our laboratories expertise in advanced imaging, and the many advantages on the zebrafish, we will visualise and characterise degenerative mechanisms in the retina in real time in vivo. The mechanisms uncovered here will provide new insight into the pathogenesis of retina degeneration and provide a proof-of-principle study to using zebrafish “avatars” to better understand many human retinal diseases.

Applications of highly motivated candidates with interests in retinal development and mechanisms of degenerative diseases are welcomed. For more information please see the MacDonald lab website is: http://zebrafishucl.org/macdonald-lab in the first instance. 

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 
• Generate novel zebrafish mutants by CRISPR-Cas9 
• Develop an expertise in advanced imaging: fixed samples and live imaging 
• Carry out histology and cell labelling techniques (e.g. immunohistochemistry)
• Work in collaboration with other researchers 
• Prepare progress reports 
• Prepare presentations 
• Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
• Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed journals 
• Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies 

Person Specification 
• A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc Neuroscience, preferably with an interest or experience in Genetics, Molecular and Cell Biology or another relevant subject 
• Demonstrable interest in glial biology and novel models of human eye disease
• Experience in zebrafish husbandry or genome modification is desirable 
• Excellent methodological skills, particularly in project planning 
• Experience of chemistry, and molecular modelling techniques 
• High proficiency in written and spoken English is required 
• Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team 

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr. Ryan MacDonald (ryan.macdonald@ucl.ac.uk) or Dr. Mariya Moosajee (m.moosajee@ucl.ac.uk). 

Click below to apply
Apply Now

Applicants should submit an application using the online form on the IoO Postgraduate Research Study Website. You will be required to submit a CV, a covering letter outlining motivation, interest, and suitability for this project, and contact details for two academic referees.

Enquiries relating to the application process should be sent to Kristina Labanauskaite, Research Degrees Administrator (ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk).

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start 1st October 2020, but there is a possibility that the start date may be delayed.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded for 3 years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and includes UK/EU UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £20,000 (including London Allowance).

Eligibility

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and EU nationals if they have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately before the PhD start date. 

Application deadline: Friday 26th June 2020

Proposed interview date: week beginning Monday 6 July 2020 

4. Phd Title: Improving the diagnosis and prognosis of Keratoconus (KC) through computational analysis of integrated clinical, imaging and genetic data from the Moorfields Corneal Bioresource (MCB)

Duration of Studentship: 3 years

PhD Title: Improving the diagnosis and prognosis of Keratoconus (KC) through computational analysis of integrated clinical, imaging and genetic data from the Moorfields Corneal Bioresource (MCB)

Supervisors: Dr Nikolas Pontikos and Professor Stephen Tuft

We offer a full-time 3 year PhD studentship to develop quantitative analytical methods to help identify and monitor the prognosis of a corneal disease called keratoconus (KC). KC commonly affects children and young adults with thinning and distortion of the cornea. If it is untreated, it can progress to cause blindness and is a leading cause of visual loss in young adults worldwide. If KC can be detected early, a treatment termed corneal cross-linking (CXL) is available for arresting further progression, preserving vision and reducing the risk for corneal transplantation. Very early detection is the goal, and we aim to integrate advances in corneal imaging, genetics and machine learning to identify individuals at risk of disease progression. We have already established an extensive database that combines detailed longitudinal imaging linked to clinical data and the results of genomic sequencing. The candidate will also explore the effect of environmental factors that may affect KC progression, such as deprivation index, smoking status, age, ethnicity, and endophenotypes such as corneal thickness.

We invite applications from highly motivated candidates with experience in computer programming who are eager to develop new skills in machine learning and learn about ophthalmology. The candidate will have the opportunity to develop algorithms that combine clinical, imaging and genetics data to refine personalised disease risk strategies. The end goal of this pioneering multidisciplinary project is to develop a tool to support the clinical decision-making process as well as to develop recommendations to improve KC outcomes. This project is part of an established collaboration between the laboratories of Dr Nikolas Pontikos (computational methods in ophthalmology) and Mr Stephen Tuft (clinical genetics of corneal disorders), with partnerships from King's College London (Dr Pyrro Hysi) and international collaborators from National Institute of Sensory Organs, Tokyo, Japan (Dr Kaoru Fujinami) and Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic (Prof Petra Liskova), and multidisciplinary collaboration with other UCL institutes, the Institute of Health Informatics (Prof Paul Taylor) and Medical Imaging (Prof Danny Alexander). The PhD student will benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities within UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and the rest of UCL, including a high-spec computer to run analysis.

This project will provide the PhD student with multidisciplinary training that will be crosscut by stakeholder engagement with industry, management of intellectual property, and regulatory authorities to ensure the algorithms being developed matches end-user requirements. The scope of the project will give the PhD student an opportunity to develop a broad range of technical skills and become articulate in communicating across different disciplines, enabling them to meet growing employment needs in the informatics, Life Sciences and medical sectors.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a minimum upper-second degree or equivalent in an associated subject such as computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics, medical or biological sciences. A Master’s degree and/or previous computer programming experience is desirable.

Duties and Responsibilities 
The successful candidate is expected to: 
•    Work in collaboration with other researchers and clinicians
•    Prepare progress reports 
•    Prepare presentations and communicate clearly to domain-experts, scientists and lay audience
•    Travel for collaboration and other meetings or conferences 
•    Prepare manuscripts for submission to international peer-reviewed journals 
•    Follow best practises for software development and work in collaboration with other software developers
•    Contribute to the overall activities of the research team, department and be aware of UCL policies 

Person Specification 
•    A good degree (2.1 or above; or equivalent EU/overseas degree) and/or MSc computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics, medical or biological sciences. 
•    A Master’s degree and/or previous computer programming experience is desirable.
•    Understanding of statistics and experience in machine learning is desirable.
•    Interest or willingness to learn about domains relevant to the PhD, such as ophthalmology, corneal biology and clinical practise
•    Ability to communicate clearly with individuals with different scientific backgrounds or non-experts 
•    Excellent methodological skills, particularly in project planning 
•    High proficiency in written and spoken English is required 
•    Very strong work ethic, with the ability to think creatively and work both individually and within a team

Informal enquiries should be made to Dr Nikolas Pontikos (n.pontikos@ucl.ac.uk) or Mr Stephen Tuft (s.tuft@ucl.ac.uk)

How to apply

Applicants should submit an application using the online form on the IoO Postgraduate Research Study Website. You will be required to submit a CV, a covering letter outlining motivation, interest, and suitability for this project, and contact details for two academic referees.

Enquiries relating to the application process should be sent to Kristina Labanauskaite, Research Degrees Administrator (ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk).

Shortlisted candidates will be contacted directly for interview. 

The successful candidate is expected to start 1st October 2020, but there is a possibility that the start date may be delayed.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded for 3 years by the Moorfields Eye Charity and includes UK/EU UCL PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and an annual salary stipend starting at £20,000 (including London Allowance).

Eligibility

The full studentship (tuition fees and salary stipend) is eligible to all UK nationals and EU nationals if they have been resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately before the PhD start date. 

Application deadline: Friday 26th June 2020

Proposed interview date: Week beginning Monday 6 July 2020

 Apply Now

There are two main types of research degree opportunities:

Funded studentships

PhD Studentships provide funding that cover tuition fees, student living expenses and often some research expenses. Usually they will have been awarded to specific supervisors or programmes. Any Institute of Ophthalmology studentships will be featured here, but you may also want to regularly check relevant websites.

Speculative opportunities

If you can’t find a studentship in a research project that interests you or you have your own funding, the best way to find a PhD project is to approach a potential supervisor directly. Exceptional students, that meet the entrance requirements, are encouraged to be proactive to identify opportunities with UCL academics whose recent research closely matches their interests.

Please click below to apply 

Speculative Opportunities - Apply Now

A summary of the research interests of each of our supervisors can be found on the webpage of each principal investigator.

You may also wish to:

  • browse the UCL's online Graduate Prospectus to find centres of research in your area of interest. Click through to the department or centre website to find staff profiles.
  • search our online research repository (UCL Discovery) where UCL’s research papers are published, subject to approvals. If you identify a research paper that particularly interests you it is likely that one of the authors would be a suitable research supervisor.

If an academic is very impressed with your research experience and proposal they may be able to help you to identify sources of funding, including from their own, or departmental, research funds. There are also UCL scholarships that they can nominate you for.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the Research Degrees Administrator
Kristina Labanauskaite Ioo.pgr@ucl.ac.uk